Remembering Ferdinand Hahn
I began writing about my great gr0eat grandparents for two reasons. Like so many others, I wanted to connect with my ancestors story in search of my own identity and connectedness in the world. Having grown up in India, I wanted to have a clearer picture of the first generation who connected our German-American family to India. Their unique story in the nineteenth century of German missionaries working in British India among the marginalized Adivasi, however, gave me another reason to write.
Having spent most of my formative years in India, I have always wanted to show the “real India”, with its complex cultural diversity, to those who are fascinated with its exotic spirituality. Very few know the story of those who are not Hindu, Muslim or Bhuddist in a country where nearly every religion on earth is represented. In India a minority constitutes more people than in many parts of the world. 8% of the population of India are Adivasi, About half of them are Christian. Few people know their story. In fact they also are in search of their own history.
I was surprised and honored to discover in my research for this book that my great great grandfather , FERDINAND HAHN, advocated for the rights of the Adivasi and helped preserve their culture. In fact, it was quite a relief for me to discover that during this colonial era how Christianity played, and continues to play, an unique and important role in the liberation of the oppressed Adivasi. Having this fresh understanding of the colonial era, during the European migration, before the World Wars, I was intrigued by the extent of globalisation and how it has shaped everyone, even in the most remotest parts of India.
The story covers the scope of Ferdinand’s life, from his desire to escape the confines of his parochial village in Germany, to his spiritual awakening, and adventure to a region, known as Chotanagpur in eastern India. Here among the Adivasi, the original dwellers or indigenous people of India, who are oppressed by the Indian majority and British rulers, he comes to appreciate the diversity of culture and social conditions. Ferdinand seeks the liberation of the Adivasi, both spiritually and temporally, through education, social services and advocacy, as well as through establishing a culturally relevant Adivasi church. The narrative braids his personal family story in with the unique role of German missionaries in British India